CLN  Press Release: Fire at Colonial Downs? 
There certainly was last Thursday afternoon, but it was a planned and controlled burn over the 1 1/8 miles Secretariat Turf Course. 
Track Superintendent J.D. Thomas, Facilities Director Dawes Lee, Paul Reir of the Virginia Department of Forestry and members of the New Kent Fire Department set the country’s widest turf course on fire in its entirety, starting in the far turn, working their way down the home stretch where 14 past Virginia Derby champions thundered home to victory, thru the track’s first turn and down the back side where they eventually met up at the location where the controlled burn started.

“We’re basically burning instead of cutting,” said Thomas, who has wanted to utilize this unique method for several years. “The burn actually drives the nutrients down into the soil,” added Thomas. “The dormant leaf that sits atop the bermuda grass is dead anyway, and that’s what burns. If we were to cut and blow that leaf the way we normally do, it would take ten days and we’d lose the nutrients. The entire burn took less than two hours and we saved the nutrients.”

The track crew put 12,000 gallons of water down before the burn — 6,000 inside the turf course and another 6,000 outside the track’s perimeter. From a distance, the turf course looks like Nascar’s newest road track, but Thomas and Lee expect to see a plush green surface arise within a week.

Colonial Downs opens its summer season on June 2nd with the Strawberry Hill races. After opening weekend, the track will race “under the lights” at a  7 PM evening post time on Thursday, Friday & Saturday, and a  Sunday afternoon post of 12:55 PM. Tickets for Strawberry Hill and the July 21st Virginia Derby are now on sale.

(Colonial Downs Photos)